Warsaw Rotary Club History

A young lawyer, Paul P. Harris, and three business associates, organized the first Rotary Club on February 23, 1905 in Chicago. Fourteen years later an organizational meeting was held on April 18, 1919 to establish a club in Warsaw, Indiana. An official charter was issued to the club in June of that same year. The Warsaw Rotary Club has been instrumental in many projects in the community. In the 1920's the club helped to establish the local Chamber of Commerce and started "Rotary Toy Day" in 1927 to help children in need during the holidays through The Salvation Army. A speech contest was held in the early years for High School students to present ideas on how to improve Warsaw. Some of the topics covered by youth in those days were the need for more lighting downtown and a community gymnasium for the growing sport of basketball.

Rotary survived the Depression to continue addressing the needs in the community. In 1952 the club sponsored its first Exchange Student, Heinz Wenslow from Germany, and sponsored many others almost annually until the mid 1990's.

Along with Rotary Toy Day an annual "Brice's Day" in honor of Brigadier Bryce Phillipson of The Salvation Army was established by Bruce "Angels" Howe in December 1965. Nearly $1,000 was collected by the club that first year. Bryce was beloved by the members of the club for his service to Warsaw. He was "Promoted To Glory" in 1972. In 1990, then President Don Clemens and club members, renamed the event to Phillipson/Howe Day in honor of "Angels" many years of service. It is estimated that over $300,000 has been collected for The Salvation Army over the years. In June of 1999, Mr. Howe was presented the William Booth Award, the highest award a volunteer can receive from The Salvation Army. A record $35,040 was raised by the club during the 35th Annual Phillipson/Howe Day in 2000.

The club has delivered Mobile Meals in January for many years through the leadership of Bob Gast. Each year the Top 10 academic students at Warsaw High School are presented a $100 scholarship as they prepare to attend college. Other projects sponsored by the club through the years have been the Warsaw Biblical Gardens, Shrine Building, YMCA and Baker Boys Club.

In 1971 John Snell and Bill Chinworth became the first "Paul Harris Fellows" of the club sending $1,000 each to the Rotary International Foundation. Since those first two supporters of the Foundation over $100,000 as been sent to the foundation to meet humanitarian needs around the world. The late Don Rich led an aggressive campaign started in the 1980's to eradicate polio by the year 2005.

In 1994, the Warsaw Rotary Club celebrated its 75th Anniversary. Three members have had the distinction of serving as District Governors of Rotary International:

Arthur Raabe, 1942-1943

William Chinworth, 1948-1949
John Snell, 1969-1970

The club presents an annual "Pete" Thorn Excellence Award to recognize a person who has served the community in the spirit of the late and longtime Rotarian Pete Thorn.

Each week the club meeting features "Louie In The News" remembering another longtime member, the late Louis "Peanuts" Breading who read the news for many years.

The Warsaw Rotary Club also had two honorary members of note back in the 1920's - Billy Sunday & Homer Rodeheaver.

The makeup of Rotary has changed from business men who met in downtown Warsaw to now include business professionals, both men and women, who meet on a weekly basis on Fridays, Noon to learn about their community, fellowship together and join together in service.

For over 80 years the Warsaw Rotary Club has served the community in many capacities and continues to live according to the principal of the motto of Rotary International - "Service Above Self"

Hotel Hays - Site of the first Rotary Meeting